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Keysguy 11-26-2020 11:37 AM

Florida Keys Gardening
 
4 Attachment(s)
With the COVID situation totally out of control I am spending the holiday alone probably for the first time in my life. My wife is still up north and she is bored and sick of the weather there so I'm driving back to get her in a couple of weeks instead of waiting until Christmas. She figures if there can't be any family gatherings she might as well just come down here and be warm. I'm excited by that prospect because it also means I'll get my dog back. :D

I have done a little re-imagining of one of my gardens here so thought I'd share because it will give me something to do.

Gardening in the Keys is a very different proposition as the soil consists of whatever thin layer you can put down and keep in place on top of the rock hard limestone subsurface. The lots here are typically very small, typically 6000 square feet. Most folks opt for what I refer to as the "minimalist" approach to landscaping, which usually consists of a pearock yard with maybe a half dozen trees with a few potted plants sprinkled in. We always wanted a jungle so we have one of the few lots that is landscaped to the hilt. 11 types of palms (several in multiple tree clumps) 3 fruit tress and maybe a dozen or so other types of trees and shrubs.

I've had an area on the road (north) side of the house that because of all the trees doesn't get a lot of sun. We've tried several small groundcover plants but because of the lower light they never flowered much so we have been looking for something with more color that would work there.

I have a large bed of Fireball Neoregelia bromeliads that are in the same general area that have done great and spreading and filling in nicely completely choking out any weed growth. Neoregelia is a low growing, quickly spreading nice groundcover and is epiphytic in nature so the quality of the soil is irrelevant. A quick spin through Google took me to a grower in South Florida that specializes in multiple hybrid colorations of the Neoregelia family. BINGO!

The attached pictures show what I've done. 2 areas, 1 along the road and the other down the side of the driveway, with 3 types in each bed (5 varieties total). The clusters of large "green" ones are the centerpiece in each bed. They are a variety named 'Hawaii' and are green because they are not fully mature at this point. When they do mature, they are a glowing yellow-gold color which I think will look really nice.

This looks like it's going to really add a nice pop of color and I'm excited to see how they do.

estación seca 11-26-2020 01:01 PM

That looks great! Gardening on a smooth rock is quite a challenge!

Most of the Amazon rain forest has similar conditions. Trees weave their roots into a mat that stabilizes everything. Consider seeking out Amazonian trees to plant. Of course the Amazon doesn't get hurricanes.

DirtyCoconuts 11-26-2020 03:02 PM

Very well done!

I actually have learned to copy the folks at RF...rent an auger and drill out the limestone and then plant the trees into the drilled out holes.

Best part, if you rent the bit from Home Depot also and tell them it is for rock they give you the rock but and you don’t have to worry about the wear and tear

Diane56Victor 11-26-2020 04:55 PM

Looks beautiful, Im sure it will be amazing after a season or two of growth.
I will look forward to seeing the progress.

Fuerte Rav 11-27-2020 06:56 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by DirtyCoconuts (Post 943271)
Very well done!

I actually have learned to copy the folks at RF...rent an auger and drill out the limestone and then plant the trees into the drilled out holes.

Best part, if you rent the bit from Home Depot also and tell them it is for rock they give you the rock but and you don’t have to worry about the wear and tear

Sounds similar to my ground prep except I rent a JCB Backhoe with hydraulic rock breaker. (Comes complete with operator! Lovely guy, got to know him quite well after all the work he's done for me). Every 3 or 4 months he comes and excavates 6 or 8 holes, each a cubic metre, and then I work on mixing substrate, filling and planting. Then it's time for the next round ...

What size holes do you excavate for your trees?

KeysGuy - the bromeliads look great! Do they need shade or would they grow in full sun? I've seen some for sale in our garden centre and wondered about them before.

Q for anyone! We have very strong sun here, 350 days a year. In the 'summer' our UV is often listed as 10-12. Does the UV have an impact on plants? I've tried some plants that are supposed to like full sun and the leaves have bleached and dehydrated. If I buy from the garden centre I always try to acclimatise gradually as all their plants are in shade tents, but even some supposedly tough succulents have succumbed. Unfortunately the main garden centre is more a plant supermarket, rather than a plant nursery, throw in translation hiccups and disasters happen!
There is a good plant nursery on the island owned by a wonderful Dutch lady and her Welsh partner and I can spend all day there and receive advice along with great plants, but I still get tempted by the variety on offer in the 'supermarket'. I really should learn my lesson and only buy from the nursery.

Keysguy 11-27-2020 08:50 PM

Quote:

Do they need shade or would they grow in full sun?
Neoregelia are part sun/part shade typically. All of these are of that ilk except for the bright reddish-orange ones called 'tangerine' on the very end. Those are supposed to be full shade so they are in the shadiest spot there. They get some filtered sun.

It's an interesting contradiction with that one because typically with these things you get better color with more sun.


Ray- I know where the Canary Islands are but had never heard the specific island name of Fuerteventura so I checked it out on Google Earth. I don't know why but I always pictured the Canary's as lush and tropical but are they as arid as they look on Google Earth? Hope you don't mind my asking.

DirtyCoconuts 11-27-2020 09:20 PM

I now only bore a hole 12” across but 3-4’ feet deep. I find the roots can get into the limestone pretty easily if I help them with the initial hole.

I used to drill seven 12” holes in a pattern of six with one in the middle and then break the inside with a breaker bar

I found it way overkill. The deep rooting trees all do a good job with the deep narrow hole and the shallow rooters that spread out are meant to live here and in the winds so they’re good no matter what.

kvet 11-27-2020 11:50 PM

The limestone would be basic/high pH right? How do you all deal with that?

Keysguy 11-28-2020 08:32 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by kvet (Post 943369)
The limestone would be basic/high pH right? How do you all deal with that?

Correct. Exactly the opposite issue I deal with in my summer vegetable garden up in New Hampshire due to all of the pine trees.

Most of the plants we have here are fairly indifferent to the pH. As I mentioned earlier, the soil here is virtually non-existent so whatever is in your garden is likely there because you or a predecessor gardener put it there. I use a cypress mulch which seems to work well over time as it degrades. The only issue with that being that cypress degrades very slowly.

WaterWitchin 11-28-2020 10:29 AM

That's a really cool look with all the bromeliads! It reminds me of how we use hostas here for the same effect.

Drilling rock to plant a tree. I must share that with the husband. Whenever I bring home trees, bushes, etc, there's a lot of eye rolling because he knows he's gonna be digging holes. I will remind him it could be much worse.

---------- Post added at 08:29 AM ---------- Previous post was at 08:26 AM ----------

PS I had also imagines Canary Islands to be a very tropical looking environment. Then after seeing quite a few pictures from FuerteRav, I had to do the same... GoogleEarth it. So much for presuming.


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